We Should Pursue Trade Facilitation And Grow Revenue And Employment – NSC

…As SON demands standard products

Gladys Nweke

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council’s Director, Consumer Services, Chief Cajetan Agu on Tuesday stressed the importance of trade facilitation to a developing country like Nigeria, highlighting that the country may remain for long at the rung of the developmental ladder even in Africa, until it seriously pursues both trade facilitation and the ease of doing business agenda.

Chief Agu stated this at the Golden Tulip Hotel PortHarcourt today during a Joint Seminar on ‘Ethics and Integrity in Shipping Trade’ organised by the Nigerian Shippers Council and the Standard Organizations of Nigeria (SON), emphasizing the urgent need for Government to invest in technology and human capacity development, if the nation would timely take its pride of place in the African continent.

He specifically noted that Africa still has the potential to grow, whereas the European countries have presently peaked, and advised that Government agencies must assist the private sector to operate, develop and fuel youths development, employment and national growth.

He lamented the current situation in the country, noting that on a fact-finding mission a few months back, he counted 27 Check Points, between Seme Border and Badagry, whereas only two existed on the other side, from Seme into Benin Republic.

He maintained that Nigeria must pursue policies that favour healthy competitions, adding that it is either we are ready to compete and survive, or refuse to compete and perish.

He pleaded with the Nigerian authorities to pay closer attention to the present sad condition of the Ports’ Access Roads; stating that a situation where an importer queues for two weeks before his goods would leave the ports already leaves the importer marginalized and incapable of adequately competing with another importer who takes his cargo within three days.

He said: “Time is money, delay kills revenue. So, the ease of doing business cannot work in the present circumstance” Agu stated, noting that “the Asian economies are today booming, because once they identify the global best practice, they try to go for policies which enable them to go beyond it”, he explained, positing that whereas technology, particularly the ICT is important, Nigeria so far, is not adequately investing in technology.

Chief Agu frowned on the notion of inter-agencies squabbles; adding that rather than fight amongst themselves, they should go for joint cargo examinations at the same time and end the current waylaying of already cleared cargoes on the highways.

“There is no point in agencies fighting to examine a container or stopping a container that has been examined and cleared by one agency”, he indicated and again stressed that adequate investment in equipment would enable the country to boost productivity, and Government revenue.

“When we carry out more trade, we make more revenue and more revenue encourages savings, which also boost investment” he indicated further, adding that a road that leads to the ultimate reduction of poverty will rapidly improve the employment situation in the country.

In the meantime, the Standard Organizations of Nigerian (SON), has warned that while it would consistently prioritise trade facilitation, it would nonetheless, vigorously block any attempt by criminally minded Nigerians to import fake and substandard goods in Nigeria.

The SON Director, Inspectorate and Compliance Directorate, Engr. Obiora Manafa stated this at the Ethics Seminar today.

He said that “The SON is truly interested in trade facilitation, but this will not be at the expense of Enforcing Standard” Manafa said stressing that common sense had shown that the soaring incidences of building collapse, for instance, was largely because either substandard materials were used or because quacks were engaged to handle strayed projects.

He grieved that residential buildings were increasingly being converted for commercial purposes and described as unacceptable, the increasing waves fire as a result of the installation of fake cables; food that kills and substandard materials that later create problems.

He warned that the SON would continue to vigorously insist on the importation of standard goods in the overall safety and well being of innocent Nigerians.

Stakeholders, however, insisted that while they support the enabling powers of the SON to enforce standard and prevent foreigners turning Nigeria into a dumping ground, the SON should slash its present charges and collection, because it was already killing business, aside from unduly creating artificial inflation.